According to Comey’s associates who spoke to the New York Times, he had become suspicious of the president’s efforts to influence him through various means. Only two days after Trump assumed office, he gave Comey a special shout out during a ceremony to honor law enforcement officials.
This reportedly made Comey uncomfortable and he tried to make himself less conspicuous in the room. At the same ceremony, when Comey went to greet Trump, he stretched out his hand but Trump went in for a hug, which Comey did not return. A friend od Comey’s, Benjamin Wittes, revealed that he was disgusted by this move and saw it as an attempt calculated to compromise him. He reportedly spoke of “training” the president to follow protocol and submit inquiries about the active investigation through the Justice Department.
In a Lawfare blog post, Wittes wrote: “Comey was disgusted. He regarded the episode as a physical attempt to show closeness and warmth in a fashion calculated to compromise him before Democrats who already mistrusted him.”
Wittes said he decided to go public with his conversations with Comey to discount Trump’s accusations on Twitter that there were “leakers” among the intelligence community.
“We communicate regularly, but I am not among his close intimates or advisers. I know nothing about the Russia investigation that isn’t public. Comey has never talked to me about a live investigative matter—and I’ve never asked him to. Sometimes, as friends do, we have lunch, and when we do so, we talk about things of mutual interest,” Wittes said.
In interviews with the New York Times, and an account published on Lawfare where he works as editor-in-chief, Wittes said Comey did not want to attend Trump’s ceremony on January 22.
Wittes wrote: “There was an additional sensitivity here too, because many Democrats blamed Comey for Trump’s election, so he didn’t want any shows of closeness between the two that might reinforce a perception that he had put a thumb on the scale in Trump’s favor. But he also felt that he could not refuse a presidential invitation, particularly not one that went to a broad array of law enforcement leadership. So he went.”
At some point during the ceremony, Trump announced in front of the entire room: “Oh and there’s Jim. He’s become more famous than me.”
The moment, which was caught on video, showed Comey walk across the room, he resigned himself to shaking hands with Trump, only to be pulled into a one-sided hug, Wittes said.
“Comey took the long walk across the room determined, he told me, that there was not going to be a hug. Bad enough that he was there; bad enough that there would be a handshake; he emphatically did not want any show of warmth,” according to Wittes.
In a separate occasion, Trump allegedly called Comey and asked him when the feds were going to spread the news that he was not personally under investigation. Two people briefed on the call told this to the Times. In another instance, five days after the ceremony held on January 22nd, the President asked Comey to take a pledge of loyalty, and later suggested he close a federal investigation into disgraced National Security Advisor Mike Flynn by saying: “I hope you can let this go.”
Comey kept a paper trail documenting all that was going on and his communication with the president. He told his associates that he was summoned to a private dinner at the White House for a one-on-one dinner with Trump, during which Trump asked him twice to pledge loyalty to him as the new Commander in Chief. Sources claim Comey refused to do so but said he told the President he would always be honest with him. He was fired weeks after in a letter in which Trump told him that he could no longer effectively lead the Bureau.
Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House oversight committee, requested on Tuesday to see all documentation that James Comey kept of his communications with President Trump. However, on Thursday, Chaffetz said he will resign from Congress next month, a move that calls into question the future of the House Oversight Committee’s investigation of President Donald Trump and his campaign’s ties with Russia. Chaffetz made his resignation known in a letter, saying that he was leaving to spend time with his family, return to private sector and possibly run for Utah governor.
His letter, however, did not mention the investigation he is overseeing into Comey’s dismissal as well as the Trump campaign’s role in Russia’s alleged efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.